Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Patty Loveless, “Lonely Too Long”

“Lonely Too Long

Patty Loveless

Written by Mike Lawler, Bill Rice, and Sharon Vaughn

Billboard

#1 (1 week)

November 16, 1996

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

November 8, 1996

A vocalist overdue for the Hall of Fame tops the charts for the last time.

The Road to No. 1

After “You Can Feel Bad” went to No. 1, Loveless went top fifteen with “A Thousand Times a Day.”  The third single from The Trouble With the Truth returned her to the penthouse.

The No. 1

Loveless was the reigning ACM and CMA Female Vocalist of the Year when this song made it to No. 1, and she’d repeat the ACM victory the following year.  That she was able to enjoy such success with sophisticated and mature material like this was a product of a very special time for women in country music, which Loveless noted herself when she accepted one of those awards.

This is a song as grounded in the real experiences of modern womanhood as all of those classic Dolly, Loretta, and Tammy records were back in the day.  In the aftermath of a potential one-night stand, she has a morning after chat where she assures her partner that “we ain’t done nothing wrong. We’ve just been lonely too long.”

She subtly makes the case that perhaps something more could come from this encounter, if they can get over being “afraid we might get our fingers burned.”  What makes it a nineties country record is that it’s the woman expressing the confidence that their tryst was morally sound, and although she’s lightly encouraging it turning into something more, the value of the night before isn’t dependent on that.

Sometimes such an encounter is the first step on the path to everlasting love. Sometimes it’s just a hookup.  Either way, a good time was had by all, and no need to second guess what goes bump in the night in the clear light of morning.

During the mid-nineties, Loveless was joined on the radio by Suzy Bogguss, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Faith Hill, Alison Krauss, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, Martina McBride, Mindy McCready, Reba McEntire, Pam Tillis, Tanya Tucker, Lari White, Wynonna, and Trisha Yearwood, all of whom scored multiple hits during that time frame, and all of those hits were collectively significantly better than the output of their male counterparts.

Comparing 2022 to 1996 is enough to make you want to throw tomatoes at country radio.

The Road From No. 1

Loveless went top five with “She Drew a Broken Heart” and top fifteen with the title track from The Trouble With the Truth, which became her third consecutive platinum album.  Her next album, Long Stretch of Lonesome, went gold on the strengths of the top fifteen hits “You Don’t Seem to Miss Me” (featuring George Jones) and “To Have You Back Again,” and the top twenty “High On Love.”  A hits collection called Classics would be her final gold album to date, and it included two top thirty hits among its new material.

Loveless didn’t return to the top ten, but her next two mainstream country albums – Strong Heart and On Your Way Home – each produced two top thirty chart hits.  But they were both outsold by Mountain Soul, a bluegrass album she released in between those two sets.  She’d go on to win a Grammy for the sequel to that album, Mountain Soul II, which was her second independent release after leaving Epic.

Loveless has done some harmony work on albums by Kathy Mattea, George Strait, and Trisha Yearwood, but has otherwise been inactive as a recording artist for the past twelve years.  She still appears regularly on the Opry, and her most memorable public appearance was at the memorial for George Jones, where she sang “Go Rest High On That Mountain” with her longtime friend and recording companion, Vince Gill.

Like many of the women listed above, she belongs in the Hall of Fame, which will hopefully happen soon.

“Lonely Too Long” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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8 Comments

  1. I sometimes wish I was older in the 90s in order to have experienced these songs as they were released. I’m sad Patty has stopped actively recording because her voice was a treasure.
    Can we talk about how most of these 90s acts barely wrote their songs but somehow it was as though they did.

  2. Love this song! In the 90’s Patty Loveless could do no wrong. Everything she recorded was a gem. Next year’s Hall Of Fame: Patty Loveless, Trisha Yearwood, Dwight Yoakam. Please. Tracy Lawrence and Clint Black soon after.

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  3. This is my least favorite of Patty’s number 1 hits but I still love the song. My problem has always lied more in the production. It’s the one song off The Trouble With the Truth album I feel has not dated well. Really it’s one of only a few patty songs that hasn’t. It’s a shame radio cooled to patty on her next album as I feel You Don’t Seem to Miss Me and To Have You Back Again are two of her best singles period. It’s also a shame that by 2004 radio had shifted so far from what it once was that the underated On Your Way Home couldn’t even make it in the top 20. I know her age was a factor too but what an awesome Matraca Berg song that more ppl should have gotten to hear. Patty for sure needs to be in the CMHoF in the coming years!

    • “You Don’t Seem To Miss Me” and “To Have You Back Again” are two of my biggest favorites, as well! :)

      “You Don’t Seem To Miss Me” sounded really neat on the radio during the Fall of ’97 with it’s unique melody and George Jones’ harmony vocals. It reminds me of when I was starting middle school in the 6th grade. :) I still remember it being the first song I heard one morning around 7 AM on my brand new clock radio in my room after I’d just woken up and my mom telling me to get ready for school. Getting up that early was still pretty new to me, lol.

      I absolutely adore “To Have You Back Again,” and it brings back wonderful memories from early ’98, especially when I’d hear it on Chris Charles’ Weekly Country Countdown every Saturday night in my room before going to sleep. It actually reminded me of “Lonely Too Long” a bit when I first heard it, especially with the moody electric guitar tones. I just love the haunting, Roy Orbison feel to it, along with Patty’s performance. It’s easily one of her most underrated songs, imo, and it would’ve been a number one if I had my way!

      I even love the third Long Stretch of Lonesome single “High On Love,” which is so much fun, and takes me back to the Summer of 1998 when my parents and I went to California! :)

      Long Stretch Of Lonesome is, overall, another one of my most favorite albums from Patty that doesn’t get enough recognition, imo. And yeah, I’m still mad too about radio not playing “On Your Way Home.” That’s yet another one of the biggest clues that made me realize that mainstream country was really starting to suck in 2004.

      • I think “To Have You Back Again” went top ten on the R&R chart, at least. So did “Come Some Rainy Day” and “I Said a Prayer,” to name two other ’97-’98 female singles that peaked outside the Billboard top ten.

  4. It’s a tragedy she didn’t have any more #1s after this one, especially since singles like “You Don’t Seem to Miss Me,” “On Your Way Home,” and “Keep Your Distance” are among her best.

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  5. This is where my love for Patty truly began! :) This was my most favorite song on the radio throughout the Fall of 1996 and the Winter of early 1997, and it’s such a huge part of the soundtrack to my life as an eleven year old going on twelve during those times. Even today when Fall comes back around, this is one of the songs that immediately comes to mind for me, and it’s included on two of my Fall/Winter country playlists. It’s still one of my top favorites of hers, as well. After “Lonely Too Long,” I pretty much automatically loved everything else Patty released to radio (Doesn’t hurt that the songs themselves were excellent, as well).

    The first time I heard and fell in love with “Lonely Too Long” was early in the Fall of ’96 when I was recording it on to a tape that we also recorded an old Jim Reeves cd on. This is the same tape I mentioned in Ty Herndon’s “Living In A Moment,” another one of the most played songs in our area from late 96-early 97 (both songs were two of the biggest ones during that time, it seems). Not only did I enjoy listening to this tape a lot on my Walkman during that time, but I also loved revisiting it during the Fall of 1999. Patty’s song was one of the biggest reasons I found myself listening to it a lot again that year, but I also loved revisiting and rediscovering my love for other songs on it like “Living In A Moment,” “I Let Her Lie” by Daryle Singletary, “You’re Not In Kansas Anymore” by Jo Dee Messina, “He Ain’t Worth Missing” by Toby Keith, and “The Road You Leave Behind” by David Lee Murphy. I also found myself enjoying the Jim Reeves part of the tape, so not only was I feeling nostalgia for the mid 90’s for the first time, I was also finding a new appreciation for a classic artist like Reeves, as well.

    Funny thing is, “Lonely Too Long” is also on the same tape I recorded in the Winter of early 1997 that, you guessed it, also has “Living In A Moment” on it. :) At least Patty’s song was on an earlier part of the tape and not closer to the end like “Moment” was, so I didn’t have to worry about it messing up on me while listening to it (See my comment on the entry for Ty’s song for that story, lol). Other than that problem, it was another tape I listened to religiously. Another fun fact about this tape: I recorded her follow up single to this, “She Drew A Broken Heart,” on its B-side.

    As I mentioned earlier, this song is like the main soundtrack to those countless Saturdays that Dad and I spent from late ’96-early ’97, when he would take me to my bowling games in the youth league, and afterwards we’d go to the movies, hang out at the mall or Best Buy some, and have dinner at the brand new Red Robin that just opened in our area. I first remember hearing it earlier one cloudy Saturday just before all the fun began when he had to first stop at our nearby Giant. I was sitting in the car waiting for him with the radio on when it came on. I remember getting excited about it from the opening “Well good morning. Tell me how’d you sleep last night…” The song’s feel just perfectly matched the cool overcast weather we were having, as well, which had become my favorite kind of weather. :) The other songs that followed “Lonely Too Long” as we rode in the car were “Nobody Wins” by Radney Foster, “Piece Of My Heart” by Faith Hill, and “Learning As You Go” by Rick Trevino. It was one of those moments in which I was just so happy and excited about a lot of great songs coming on, and with the fun Dad and I were going to have that day, everything just felt so right. :)

    On another Saturday night during the Winter in early 1997 after Dad and I had been hanging out at the mall, this song came on as soon as he cranked on the car while we were in the middle of the parking lot in the cold car. I actually had it going through my head all day earlier, so it was almost like magic, as if the radio KNEW I wanted to hear “Lonely Too Long” again. Getting to hear it again that night was the icing on what I still remember as one of the most fun days Dad and I ever spent together, and I remember soaking it all in and just enjoying the moment. My dad also liked this song, and I remember him singing along to it that night in the parking lot as soon as it started. :)

    The song also takes me back to my first year in the youth bowling league not only because I’d often have it stuck in my head during my games, but also because I had a teammate named Patrick with a German mom who reminded me a bit of Patty Loveless looks wise. She was and still is one of the nicest women I’ve ever met. Not only was she always supportive and encouraging to her son, but she always cheered for me as well whenever I was doing good and even when I wasn’t. She, Patrick, my dad, and I were good friends throughout those times, and I still wonder what happened to them after that, since they never returned to the league in any of the following years.

    One of my more bittersweet memories of this song is on a weeknight when my mom, dad, and I were in the car together on the way home, and once again “Lonely Too Long” came on. My mom, however, was not impressed with the song at the time and was complaining about it being too boring. Since, as I mentioned, it was my most favorite song at the time, it really upset me that she didn’t like it. At that moment, the only thing I could think to do to defend it was sing along with it. The problem was, I was still super shy about singing out loud in front of anyone, so I sang very quietly, hoping she would still hear me, and at the same time, hoping she wouldn’t. As I was about halfway through singing though, I saw Mom smiling at me from the mirror on the sun visor, which she had pulled down so she could see me. I was caught! lol She said she could hear me singing and tried to encourage me to do it more often. My dad just said, “It’s a good song!” That instantly lightened the mood the rest of the ride back home, lol. I remember when “She Drew A Broken Heart” came on the radio the following day when Mom and I were in the car, I was wondering if she was expecting me to sing along to that one too, lol.

    “Lonely Too Long” still holds a very special place in my heart today, and as I mentioned, it’s still among one of my top favorite Patty Loveless songs. I can understand where Truth is coming from in saying that the production is a bit “older” sounding (perhaps it’s the keyboards), but personally, the mid 90’s sound of the record is part of its charm for me. I love the classy style of the arrangement featuring some lovely, smooth steel playing from Paul Franklin. The electric guitar solo has always been one of my favorite parts of the song, too, with its moody tone. One of the biggest things that drew me to the song as a kid, though, was Patty’s soothing, laid back delivery combined with the song’s beautiful melody. I always loved how she sang the song’s bridge, as well. I also just loved how non judgemental the song seemed (of course I didn’t know yet that it was about a one night stand). I even liked the part in the second verse about warming up by the fire and being afraid of getting their fingers burned, which gave me the image of a couple literally holding their hands close to the fire to warm them up. :)

    The song’s music video is also quite lovely, and I grew to love it even more when I found out it was shot in the beautiful state of Maine. :) I absolutely love the scenery shown throughout much of the video and how much of it features overcast weather. Patty also looks great in that white gown. It may actually be my favorite video of hers.

    As much as I love this song, it’s such a shame it ended up being her last number one. “She Drew A Broken Heart” was also getting played a lot in our area, but it was likely slowed down from competing with the tons of recurrent airplay “Lonely Too Long” was still getting (and maybe a lot of stations stopped playing it around Valentines Day, too). It’s such a cool song, though, that mixes some great hard rocking guitar with some fiery fiddling. I also love “The Trouble With The Truth” which is a big part of the soundtrack to the Spring and Summer of 1997 for me. I even have it on a tape I recorded in the Spring of ’97 and I saw its music video on GAC during that time.

    Another one of her singles that often gets overlooked today that I still love is “The Last Thing On My Mind” from the Strong Heart album.

    Kevin, I’ve been throwing tomatoes at country radio (in my mind at least) since 2004, especially when they refused to play Patty’s “On Your Way Home.” For the past decade though, it’s made me want to put a sledge hammer to it, lol. And yes, please put Patty in the Hall of Fame soon!

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  6. Just a wonderfully mature and honest song. If country music had wisdom literature this would be an essential part of the tradition. I love this song.

    The women of country were absolutely killing it with relatable, genuine stories and memorable melodies.

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